Cartoonist John Porcellino has been giving readers an intimate look at his personal life for over three decades in the pages of his King-Cat zine, creating short comics and prose stories that address both the major and minor events in his life. With his signature minimalism, Porcellino strips his artwork to the bare essentials needed to convey plot and emotion, making it easier for readers to project their own feelings on the visuals. He achieves universality in that simplicity, and Porcellino’s greatest strength is his ability to put readers in his own shoes and use his experiences to enlighten their own.
Drawn & Quarterly’s From Lone Mountain, on sale March 28, is a collection of King-Cat issues published between 2003 and 2007, and the standout issue has Porcellino grieving over the recent death of his father. This exclusive excerpt from the graphic novel shows Porcellino a couple weeks after his father’s death, walking along a busy street when he sees a monk on the other side. He becomes fascinated by the man, who comes to represent the path not taken a few years back when Porcellino considered taking monastic vows.
This symbolic importance of the monk comes through in the visuals, and at the start of the story, the vaguely defined monk looks a lot like Porcellino. The two men are connected early on, but as Porcellino gets closer to him, he starts to focus in on distinguishing characteristics of the monk: his cold hands, the beads around his neck, the gray whiskers on his chin. There’s a lot of visual noise in the first page, but once Porcellino crosses the street, that noise fades away and the two men become isolated on the sidewalk. The story ends with them heading off on two separate paths, and that final panel is a great example of how much emotion Porcellino is able to convey in a bare-bones image. The monk still reads as a monk, but Porcellino is a nondescript outline, reflecting his uncertainty regarding his identity and direction in life.